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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sebring 2011: Rays Of Hope Ahead?

The planes and people came...and light-sport keeps on truckin’

Flight Design CTLS Clamar Floats. I had the pleasure to get webbed feet courtesy Tom Guttman and son Tom Jr. (of CT dealer Airtime Aviation). Their new CTLS sported a clean pair of Clamar amphibious floats built by famed float designer Clair Sceli, and they perform beautifully. Tom let me cycle several landings on the nearby waters of wind-whipped, whitecap-popping Lake Jackson. Solid, sturdy, functional. Drag penalty is only 18 knots at top speed—we still saw 102 knots. The floats get on-step pretty quick, and the CT still has a good strong climb rate. Contact: www.flyct.com.

Dual SkyViews for the CT. Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, also displayed a gorgeous, futuristic panel at the show: two side-by-side Dynon SkyView EFIS displays with a Garmin 696 chaser—what a cocktail! The sexy panel is a $12,000 upgrade and includes dual-system backup batteries, engine monitoring module, a backup GPS antenna/receiver module, and dual ADAHRS. The upgrade also includes an independent pitot probe. To accept the panels, the instrument console was widened. XM Weather and TIS traffic are included with the Garmin 696 to boot. Contact: www.flightdesignusa.com.

Cessna Skycatcher Catch-Up. Cessna’s Skycatcher program is really gaining production traction. By the end of 2010, 30 Skycatchers had been delivered, mostly to U.S. flight schools and Cessna Pilot Centers (CPC). “We expect to deliver 150 more by the end of this year,” according to Communications VP Bob Stangarone, “and more than that in 2012.” “With the Garmin G300 on board,” said Julie Filucci, manager of CPC, “you’ve got everything you need: airport data, automatic weight-and-balance calculator and a lot more.” Cessna’s new online sport pilot training course, available through CPCs, has tons of video and instruction by the legendary John and Martha King of King Schools. Contact: www.cessna.com.

SeaRey LSX. Kerry Richter took me up in the new SeaRey LSX he first designed back in 1992. Several design iterations later, the S-LSA version of the popular experimental-category amphib (more than 550 have been built) is expected to debut with its ASTM-certification paperwork completed by Oshkosh. One of the easiest, most goof-proof airplanes I’ve ever flown, Richter gave me a full workout with maximum maneuvers, glass-water, effortless landings and short, short takeoff runs of 300 feet or less...and remember, that’s off water. Drop the wheels, and the performance with the Rotax 914 Turbo is equally impressive on land. Strong (+6 G’s to -4 G’s ultimate load factor), the new factory-built version is an impressive waterbird market contender. Contact: www.searey.com..

The 2011 Florida LSA Tour. LSA makers eager to expand sales took to the air after Sebring in a kind of flying-auto-mall gaggle. Five top manufacturers embarked on the six-city Florida demonstration tour to attract potential customers. Cooked up by Bill Canino of SportairUSA and Legend Air’s Dave Graham, formerly with Gobosh, the idea targets one of America’s busiest private-aviation states. Legend’s Cub, Flight Design’s CTLS, SportairUSA’s Sting S3 and Sirius, the Rans S-19, and Jabiru’s J230 joined the tour’s itinerary to Naples, Miami, Orlando, Spruce Creek, Leeward Air Ranch and Tallahassee. If successful, tours like this could fill the gap until the LSA infrastructure reaches more fully across the country.

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